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Thursday , October 17 2019

Plotting podcasts

I just wanted to tell you that the At My Kuwaiti Table (AMKT) team – producer Krysia Derecki and presenters Chaitali B Roy and myself – have now come to the end of the first season of our unique podcast. We have just completed our first series of 10 plus 1 for luck!

The idea to launch a podcast – the first of its kind in the Gulf – sprung up at my ‘Welcome to Kuwait’ lunch for Krysia,in Spring 2018, when she first mentioned the concept to us. Her plan was to record scintillating conversation with leading Kuwaiti-based women, over a dish of their choice. Being at the cutting edge, with years of BBC experience behind her, Krysia was able to bite the bullet and lead us both into a new media field. Chaitali, as you know, is a leading journalist in Kuwait and author of Women of Kuwait: Turning Tides and I have a background in documentary making (Do watch I Married a Serb! on the internet). But, although I had only recently listened to Ratline – the brilliant podcast of the Human Rights lawyer, Philippe Sands – neither Chaitali nor I were particularly podcast-savvy when Krysia’s idea burst into our lives.

With her help – being open to the bold and beautiful – we soon grasped the nettle and entered a new podcasty world which always begins with the sound of Krysia’s green suitcase being wheeled onto the show. It is the kind of brand-less suitcase, which can only be found in a British Pound shop, and which is now filled with the simplest but most efficient of podcasting equipment – wires, adaptors, headphones and a brilliant boxy thing with plugs which looks like some kind of 1984 space age machine. It certainly does the trick but only in the hands of Anees Backer – our gifted and ever chirpy sound engineer. We transformed him into Aneeso in the magic and very Italian home of Kuwait’s unofficial poet laureate and founder of Co-exist, Nejoud Al-Yaghout. Go and listen now to her poems ‘Kuwait A Minute!’ or ‘Inside out I scream.’

But, I am skipping. Let me get back to the beginning before diving up into the stars! The beginning began with our very first podcast in Shaikha Al Arfaj’s Raja yoga centre – Harmony House – where Shaikha prepared us a delicious sattvikauberginey feast.Do go and have a meal in her delightful and unexpected vegetarian restaurant – Ginger.

I cannot say we were not nervous – would it really work? Would we actually manage to speak for twenty five minutes without stopping or editing? Would the combo of food and words mean anything? How would we gobble and gas at the same time? So, the first thing we decided was to exercise a little self-control ( in keeping with the principles of Harmony House) and eat after but not before we had recorded the podcast. This worked every time except in the case of firefighter Sara Akbar’s ‘Balaleet’ where hunger got the better of us and we polished off the eggy ricey spicy breakfast as soon as we set eyes on it. Zoom.

There is no stopping the flow in podcasting even when emotion or tears creep in as with Tamara Saab who wept at the memory of her mother’s illness. We just kept on going although our hearts were breaking. Of course we were also buoyed up by the thought of an awaiting home-made carrot cake with a real COSTA coffee carrot on top! This was our only sponsored podcast and we are currently looking for sponsors to enable us to begin our second series in the Autumn. So, do please – gentle listeners out there – help us in our quest.

Generally, the conversation is as lively and free as gently bubbling dark sugar on its way to becoming toffee. In covering topics as diverse as Latifa Al Wazzan’s recycling mission and Abrar Al Ebrahim’s latest jewellery fantasia, we dart all over the place and give our listeners (anybody in the world can listen to a podcast!) a true insight into what is going on in Kuwait for and by women. While we try not to be too intrusive, we are not afraid to dig a little deeper and always begin with a clear analysis of the role of childhood and parental influence upon success as in the case of international fencer and fashion designer,Balsam Al Ayoub.While gobbling up her delicious dish of ‘Aseeda,’ Balsam also told us about the famous ‘Lose 4 kgs Date & Laban diet.’

Somehow having food in the background makes the conversation flow more naturally and on one hilarious occasion when one of our dear participants forgot to bring her dish (it happens – busy lives) we managed successfully to imagine the food and even conjured up its tantalising aroma.

Podcasts are always full of surprises!We are lucky to have been helped along our path to success by some splendid publicity. First Nejoud al Yaghout generously wrote about us in Bazaar magazine and then Tarek Aleryan invited us on to his TV show Hala Kuwait .We turned up in a state of high excitement. I brought some freshly baked Bakewell Tart and some blooming daffodils (flown in that morning from GB)and we had a jolly time a trois. Yes, there was enough room on Tarek’s famous sofa. We three always go everywhere as a package and Tarek was able to keep us under control … just!

We have laughed so much in this first series of AMKT. Laughter is at the heart of our conversation as clear when we visited AUK and its delightful students to tell them how we do what we do and why.

A big thank you to all our podcastees and to our world wide audience for your feedback.  Hoping to link up with you, dear Readers, again soon. But, in the meanwhile, keep on listening to AMKT and sending us your ideas, via Instagram – at my kuwaititable.

Ramadan Karim.

By Dr Lavinia Davenport,

wife of the British Ambassador

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